IQ and Eugenics

I’ve long been skeptical that a simple and outright selection for IQ, full stop, is necessarily eugenic, at least in the sense of contributing to a society’s overall stability. IQ is a multidimensional trait, which can be parsed out at least into the distinct categories of visuospatial, mathematical, and verbal IQ. It is not necessarily the case that the behavioral regularities associated with these expressions of intelligence are equivalent, and by that unlikely that they have equivalent kinds of life strategies and outcomes. Given this, I will forward some speculations about the intelligence constitution of societies brought about by the ongoing discussion of cities as IQ shredders. I note the highly tentative nature of these hypotheses, but I suspect that delving into distinct IQ and psychological profiles and the selection thereof is the beginning of an answer to the IQ shredder paradox.

What initially roused my suspicion to the claim that cities are dysgenic for the societies they are attached to is that increasing urbanization was coincidental to Western Europe’s civilizational, and ergo genetic, rise. The cities do effect an overall depression of fertility, at least with respect to those living in more rural areas. This means that the civilizing pressure of Malthus is not some universal force which affects each individual an equal degree; Malthusian pressure exists as the summation of pressures affecting each individual’s reproductive success. So much as society has unequal uses for different psychological profiles, those which are oversupplied relative Darwinian demand will tend to be consistently selected out, while those which fulfill some niche shall be genetically promoted.

Which kinds of people are most likely to end up in city centers? Those which most crucially depend upon interpersonal exchange for their livelihood, which includes those of a high verbal acumen and criminals. City as “criminal shredder” seems not so bad, but what of verbal intelligence? Do we not lose something integral if verbal intelligence is depressed in the population by cities’ selection effects? There appears a number of reasons why this may be a good thing.

First, I suspect there is a positive correlation between verbal intelligence and fanaticism. History is replete with characters of high charisma honed by high verbal IQ engaging in populist uprisings of political and religious character (and one questions the exact point of discontinuity between the religious and the political). In other words, there is a tendency for high verbal IQ (let’s call them “sophists” for short) to produce systems of power and influence, which if uncontrolled by a sovereign proves destabilizing as institutions vie for power. Per Moldbug’s law of power, high asymmetry proves most stable; so in this case, high asymmetry of sophistical powers allows those powers (and almost all power is sophistical in nature) to put forth less effort into managing and beating down nascent sophistical attempts for power.

Second, there is the historical example of the Catholic Church’s clerical and monastic orders, which enforced virtual poverty and abstinence, simultaneously making those of non-royal descent but high sophistical prowess dependent on the royal and ecclesiastical purse and unlikely to reproduce, bolstering the power of these institutions and helping to secure their ideological longevity.

In short, there  is the potential that the tendency for cities to shred sophists gives up a little IQ growth to clear the way for the more useful, and less troublesome, kinds of IQ such as the visuospatial and mathematical, which rarely direct themselves to use the weapons they actually build.

Of course my hypothesis here depends upon empirical verification which is yet unavailable. While there is evidence suggesting sophists are most attracted to city centers, and resultantly have lower rates of fertility, this isn’t demonstrated beyond doubt. Likewise, it predicts we would tend to find high verbal IQ in nobility, but assessing this requires a number of studies which we may not yet be able to perform (but I do have some ideas to this end). Clark’s The Son Also Rises, which charts the diffusion of names of noble lineage and their outcomes suggests that, in the age which saw the relaxing of pressures to select against sophism, their profusion indicates nobility were sophist-heavy. Furthermore, it assumes high verbal IQ, as an outlying trait, translates to occupations in the city.

Even if the specifics of my hypothesis are incorrect, analyzing the other eugenic traits of cities and other reproductive (or not) centers of society is crucial to understanding the correlation between norms and social order.

Cycles, Society, and History

What would a cyclical history be? The term ‘cyclical’ is frequently used without delving into the nuts and bolts about what counts as a cycle or what it means for something to be cyclical (aside from the obvious “it happens again” but even that is oversimplified).

A cycle is an instance of effective causal feedback to its mover. The mover in this case may be an atom, an organization, or even a set of things. Some cycles are highly regular, meaning they tend to take place through the same channels with high frequency, with little deviation therefrom. A feedback loop which is completely self-contained and never interfaces with external objects could be called perfectly regular (the only such loop would be the sum totality of existing things). Cycles which tend to take place through novel interactive pathways are more irregular, and unsurprisingly tend to complete less frequently. Since (essentially) no cycle occurs with perfect regularity, every system is subject to potential discontinuity. In some cases this potential for discontinuity is very small (consider the cycle constituted by a credit card transaction), while for others it is very large (consider conquest by war).

Society is not only a set of spontaneous social cycles subject to cultural, legal, and economic regularities, it is also a cycle producing being. That is, as it grows it produces new potential cycles; these new potential cycles are, for instance, new divisions of labor within the economy. The introduction of new potential cycles tweaks the potential for creating new cycles, which suggests less a completed circle (at least as we imagine it to metaphorically stand in for a description of a complete cycle) and more an unwinding spring, or a spiral.

To enumerate on a cyclical conception of the chain of being; merely material being unwinds into biological being unwinds into social being unwinds into civilization unwinds into..? To put this in a more classically Aristotelian sense, though no less accurately; all being in this world is composed of matter and form. There is no “pure matter” per se, matter exists only as it is wedded to form and has substantial being. Material forms constitute biological forms such as vegetative and animate life, which in turn constitute the rational form of being which is human life. Human beings, in turn are the matter of the social form, and these social beings are themselves the matter of some civilizational form… This more or less takes for granted that as time goes on forms go fractal, permitting the (potential) ability to zoom in and out endlessly, encountering novel constitutions of being from their simpler parts (assuming one has the time and space to do it). But this is a step ahead, back to cycles.

Cycles are important for they indicate the contours of individual beings. Within a being, effective feedback mechanisms are the indicator of integrity; we identify the failing health of an animal, for instance, with parts of the body becoming unable to interact cohesively to the benefit of the whole. A cycle by necessity treats each individual part as conferring an addition to the whole which would not be included were that individual part not included; there are no free-riding parts in a cycle. (The benefits of a cycle may be distributed beyond it, but this due to other cycles and not the cycle responsible for the instantiation of the benefit; think production vs extraction.) This does not mean each individual part is included by necessity. Some cycles include a great number of accidental parts, but this does not mean the overall effects to other potential cycles are negligible.

The difficulty of history with respect to cycles is that the greater intergenerational cycles which contribute to the rise and fall of civilizations are impossible to witness within a single lifetime, even if one knew what to look for. Furthermore, extricating individual cycles from each other to know the influence of each on the overall spontaneous social order requires multiple verification of the cycle to get an idea of how one regulates itself over time (or else doesn’t, and goes extinct). Some cycles are deeply written into human history, as they are founded in our genetic character. Others are more immanent and everyday, such as interpersonal relationships subject to our immediate negotiation (e.g. having a bank account) but which nonetheless at the population level exhibit clear sociobiological tendencies and regularities.

The suggestion that history is cyclical is really no more mysterious or grandiose than suggesting that clocks measure time through a highly regular cycle, e.g. the interaction between a laser and cesium atoms. It only happens to be constituted by cycles which are in principle impossible to observe by an individual directly (though it is possible indirectly, and only with highly probabilistic inference) as they occur by definition beyond the purview of the individual (otherwise Dunbar plus societies would be impossible) and can take a really long time to transpire (some social cycles, especially those tied to eugenic/dysgenic selection, take centuries to successfully become clear).

At this point, the question of how cycles may be studied in order to gauge the health of a society becomes pertinent. Not all structures conduct cycles equally; some incentivize (in the really long run, aka evolutionary timescale) eugenic selection, precipitating the production of novel potential cycles at scale with the social and material capital demands of a growing society, while others may be dysgenic, precipitating action pathways which disrupt the transmission of a cycle. In general, we would tend to identify a more civilized society with cycles which foster the creation of more cycles, while a more barbaric society would have a greater proliferation of cycles which inhibit the creation of more cycles. The former exercises a tendency towards lower time preference, and is thus associated with social and legal norms that engender investment and cooperation. The latter tends higher, and is thus associated with the use of violence and tribal warfare. However, this doesn’t mean one should desire cycles completing which never inhibit others particularly; per the logic of the market, businesses shall fail partly through the superior resource management of other businesses, which is an instance of successful cycle completion which precludes some particular cycle completion while simultaneously creating the opportunity for an overall greater number of cycles (e.g. the greater overall resources saved in this case).

This is, in short, the background of cyclical history. We mean by it not some predestination by the stars, only the complex interacting effects of millions of simultaneous cycles taking place which is society.

Gnonologia

Gnon is not God, but the parallel between Gnon and divine providence is hard to shake. There is a lingering anti-description, a pointing-towards, a fundamental tendency towards the refining of this concept of the will of nature and how we may be either aligned with or against it, and how that alliance shall determine the flourishing of civilization.

The law of Gnon may be summarized in but three words: thrive or die. One is either expanding, taking ever more resources and power under the purview of one’s form, or that form is being succeeded, outcompeted, and ultimately vanquished by others. Whether that form is merely material, biological, or social, Gnon has pitted not only life but all of being in a war of all against all. This war cannot be legislated away by a sovereign; at best, Hobbes’ sovereign can only bargain collectively for his society and hope that the pittance of existence is sufficient to continue the expansion of his people over the land, time, and space. But there is no dethroning Gnon; Gnon has its (its, Gnon is not a person) will by the ordaining of God, who is its only master and whom it serves with unrivaled slavishness. One cannot get between God and Gnon, for the latter is His embodied will; it is in this sense we must reconcile ourselves to Gnon, not as would-be conquerors but children before a king.

Evolution selected as much for the properties of consciousness and individual reason as it did for civilization. We should keep in mind that civilization is less the product of human intelligence and more that human intelligence is the product of civilization; in other words, our reason is not for our own ends, but that of society’s. Society does not serve us, we serve society, and by extension society serves Gnon. This tendency of procession, hand over hand as a rope pulling the curtains on the universe, endless branch pruning and dispassionate selection, marks the rhythm of time. Evolution brings low both those forms of insufficient ambition and insufficient humility. Timidity invites the slow death of decline, hubris invites fiery apocalypse. Pursuing the telos of society is a task between Scylla and Charybdis.

Gnon is the summation of telos. It is the accumulation of all individual telos’ acting at once for their own ends, with competing interests being decided by mere force of will. It is not right or wrong that the Europeans wiped out the Native Americans through smallpox and conquest, nor is it right or wrong that the latter day Europeans are racing to sacrifice themselves to the false gods of Progress. In the long run what is, is. We cannot build civilization by dictating to Gnon our desires and preferences, our ideas about how society ought to be. We can only keep pen and parchment handy to take notes when it decides to engage in its rambling, disorganized rants.

Where does this leave neoreaction? There is no capturing of Gnon, for that is hubris. Nor is there retreating from Gnon, which is timidity. Perhaps it is fair to say we do not know what the end of society is. We may be able to understand in some vague sense the next step of civilization, but that is only an intermediary end which, being accomplished, will point the way to the next age. It is always tempting to say we have the answer, but I am reminded of Wittgenstein’s Riddle. I won’t pretend my faith doesn’t ease my mind, as I needn’t put my hopes ultimately in the feebleness of man. We may at best approximate those forms of society which perpetuate it with the hope that this shall see it to its end, but of course there is no promise of such from Gnon. Whatever that be, Gnon shall have its way.

Behavior and Language

From my perspective, the purpose of philosophy is tussling over the best use of words. This might confirm some people’s suspicions about a number of things, but I’ll just point out that if one supposes from this that philosophy can be safely disregarded, they fail to understand the significance of language. Language is one of, if not the, most important means of interpersonal exchange available to humans, and it facilitates every interaction from the level of the everyday to the strategic and world changing.

The idea of language controlling our thought can seem kooky and occult, but the mechanism is ultimately very simple. We adapt our language on the basis of reward, being trained into the phonology and vocabulary at a young age through a behaviorist model. When the child demonstrates the correct association of ‘mommy’ to mom, he is showered with praise and affection; when he fails to do so, the praise is withheld. As we mature, this extrinsic reinforcement over the proper use of language takes on a subtler, but no less appreciably pleasurable, form of incentive; social integration. Social integration is the key to psychological health as it is, for the individual, the key to material and reproductive success. In order to be socially integrated, people must adapt the correct responses when certain language is used (or even has the potential to be used).

Object-level words such as coffee can be very easily explained; when I say coffee and the barista returns with a hot, bitter liquid, I reward her by following the socially approved script of paying for my beverage, saying thank you, and asking where the creamer is, acts which the barista understands as conditions of success. Were the barista to not return with the right liquid, I would express disapproval (politeness and disapproval are not necessarily exclusive, I’ll note) with the intent of changing the barista’s behavior so as to correctly identify the use of ‘coffee’ with coffee. Words which convey groups and multidimensional relations of behavior such as ‘honor’ or ‘humility’ can be much harder to cash out, the concept becoming clear to us through an extensive and evolving contact with social approval/disapproval for the correct articulations and instances of behavior describable by that property. In order for us intake a given statement, such as “You could show more humility,” we cannot adapt our behavior without having to adapt the way we think, in an attempt to understand how the present situation relates to those abstract principles from previous situations in which the concept was relevant and its role therein. (Note that even if we wanted to show disrespect, we must still go through the same process of implicit inference.)

Generally, people prefer to act so as to develop and maintain social integration. This leads them to adapt their behavior, personality, and way of thinking in order to maximize social approval (ceteris paribus). However, the sphere of social approval is magnitudes smaller than the actual population of humans. It follows that certain groups, inasmuch as they maintain cohesion via some shared purpose which contributes to that group’s end (rather than directly to the individual), will come in conflict since some groups’ values are competing. Leaving aside the question of semantic content for now, the effect of words between groups has a polarizing tendency. The “right words” according to one’s in-group will yield social approval, but those same words will yield social disapproval from the out-group. Why should this occur? Because the groups have learned (correctly or not) that each group has competing values, and given a zero sum game some proxy of warfare must take place at least to inhibit the power and influence of the competing group. When the right combination of words takes place and an opponent’s brain just shuts off, this is actually quite rational; what the individual has learned and understood so far as he is able is that this group he belongs to provides a benefit to him, and he would really prefer to not see this benefit go so his cognition shuts off and he goes straight into war mode.

In the mouths of anyone, most criticisms will tend to be of the form “My thede good, your thede bad.” And that may be perfectly correct. If we understand a thede as just a grouping per some principle, whether concrete or abstract, then the “group of people who accept scientific evidence in favor of evolution” is a thede, and even a thede which it is better to be a part of than not. (Of course, it doesn’t follow that certain subthedes of a thede must be good overall.) We seem to come to truth through a process of groupings and affiliations. “On this question, do you side with group x or group y?” Whether it’s the issue of free will, transubstantiation, or the proper way to butter bread, it is all a kind of test to determine which tribe someone belongs to and whether more highly invested interpersonal exchange has a benefit.

Behavior and Metaphysics

If you think you are an atom of reason, this will tend to influence the faith you place in your own wavering human judgment. If, on the other hand, you approach philosophical disquisition with some level of humility, you will tend to formulate your arguments with a respect to the limits of your cognition. If you don’t believe there are “innately known truths” which are naturally explicated through language without any essential dependence on the experience that allowed you to imbue that language with the meaning it possesses, you will exercise a dissatisfaction with arguments about ethical intuitions. Likewise, you will have little patience for positivistic accounts which situate a binary between a priori and a posteriori elements of reasoning which rules out the former as a realm of actual semantic content. This forces me to continually confront a problem: if the language of metaphysics is meaningful, how is it meaningful?

It isn’t enough to point out that the proposition of the logical positivist to cash out meaning in terms of (actual and/or possible) observations is self-defeating. It leaves the question of metaphysical semantics open. We don’t have innate ideas about “being” or “causation” which are then translated into English via some Rosetta Stone to the mentalese which would instantiate those ideas in our brains. This is not to say there is nothing innately human to reasoning; the power of human reason is still something innate. It’s just what makes us rational beings; if we lacked these powers, we wouldn’t be human. What is innate to human reasoning is the way in which experience is constructed, the tendency to note association between phenomena and categorize those associations between essential (i.e. causal) and accidental (i.e. correlated by intermediary causes). The ground level of linguistic learning is simple reward and punishment; the child who correctly uses words receives positive social feedback. I say “Coffee” to the barista, and when brought something else I express disapproval, a mild form of punishment summarily replaced by approval when the correct beverage is served. From there, “coffee” is categorized under caffeinated beverages, beverages, consumables, and so on up the chain of categories to the most general. This ability to distinguish between property-based sets of things in the world is not a form of knowledge, but a habit of mental organization. We can explicate the mechanics involved, but this explication does not mean the mechanics which actually form the act of reasoning are themselves ideas; they are ideas of mechanics, but the idea of, say, modus tollens is not itself the efficient cause in actual reasoning.

This separation between the efficient mechanisms of reasoning and their description is a distinction which frequently fails to be taken into account. It is presumed that our awareness of logic constitutes our use of it, when in reality our actual use of logic occurs beneath consciousness and the participation of our ideas. There is a degree to which our consciousness acts as an executive overseeing the business of reasoning, but the bulk of the heavy lifting is still being done under the surface, guiding us to certain conclusions. This affiliation of consciousness with reasoning, however, does get at an important point. In order for this imposition of order upon mental subroutines not directly interfaced with the conscious experience of reasoning, it must be able to not only interpret the totality of experience in some way, it must have some way of perceiving relations in a way not individually ascertained by those rudimentary associative forms of reasoning. By strenuously picking out all independently ascertainable phenomena for regularities inherent to particular constructions, it provides the possibility of reorganizing the mental architecture in order to run a particular association through a different logically descriptive process. In order to do this, it must come from the most general level; hence our ability to reference the totality of experience even if it cannot be parceled out like those phenomena which comprise only part of our experience.

Metaphysics is, in other words, the description of the architecture of human reasoning. It describes the mechanics of human thought, a kind of metapsychical analysis. Being is not something intuited through any specific experience, but all experiences; this description of the totality of experience precludes the ability to introduce a semantically closed articulation, given that our experience is itself not closed (were it, we would be dead, and unable to speak besides). Reasoning is a kind of behavior, and is thus subject to positive analysis like any other objective phenomena, and occurs as an interaction between experience and picture building (in Wittgenstein’s sense). Diagnosing this regularity of reasoning as it actually takes place in the world allows one to note the continuity of reasoning and the overall behavior of the individual; after all, if reasoning is but a species of human behavior, it follows that it tells only part of the story of the individual’s behavior. Reasoning is influenced by behavior in general, and influences overall behavior in turn.

We witness this in the malleability of language. Some mechanism for expressing a particular form of reward or punishment becomes necessitated by some paradigm of social arrangement (e.g. religion, ideology), and so language is seized upon in order to control the behavior of others. To the extent you can control how someone uses language, you can control their thoughts. People who recognize the authority of another in a social situation will instinctively adapt their usage of language in order to reflect agreement in practice; in just the same instinctive way we learn how to distinguish coffee from other drinks by the reward/punishment mechanisms of social approval/disapproval in childhood and beyond, we adapt our language concerning society, the categorization of ethical prescription, God, and so on. Some people have greater influence over how language is shaped, be that for reasons of sheer human authority or a prowess of demonstration. Why did those who concern themselves over the technical use of ‘mass’ in physics begin using it in Einstein’s way? Because his conception and elaboration on the best way to articulate observable physical phenomena proved rewarding. There is no way to disconnect the act of reasoning from its social context. This should be the lesson of Kuhn, strained through the filter of social psychology; a scientific field defines itself from within, and that within is necessarily instantiated by social relations, and is thus subject to the powers and limits of social relations in general. After all, someone first needed to decide to confer degrees, which could only have been effectively done if that person’s ideas were already respected, which must have grown through a dialectical process of discussion and engagement.

So as the language of science is shaped by experimental observation, so is philosophy the attempt to shape the most general modes of thought by the most general tool of mental description; language. Philosophy proceeds through a dialectic at levels which tend to be sufficiently disconnected from lived experience that many philosophers never manage to piece the connection between their abstract thoughts and the meat and potatoes of life. A means of demonstrating, at least in a (properly) intuitive sense, by which the act of reasoning is brought under inspection by itself, so as to link the language of philosophical speculation with the everyday. And how is that done? By recognizing how philosophy proceeds from the question of organizing the principles of organization; rather than concerning itself with the members of sets, it is concerned with the principles by which those members are organized into their compartments and analyzed from that place. A description of a set such as “causal phenomena” earns it a certain kind of treatment, whereby it will be placed into certain logical forms of relation and not others. Providing the means of linking how our words gain their meaning in the endeavor of prescribing certain notational paradigms so as to demonstrate their better use for what we are attempting to do by philosophy is how one ultimately wins an argument about semantics.

Progress and Teleological History

The understanding of teleology since the Enlightenment has been essentially papered over. It is not really that teleology no longer plays a role in our understanding, indeed it is essential, but we have largely forgotten what that is and how it is tied to conceptions of order. It is a great irony that the great doctrine of our age, the defining feature of the present zeitgeist, Progress, is intrinsically teleological. But then, one must consider that if an aspect of understanding is essential, then inasmuch as the arc of history is something we try to make sense of, it follows that a teleological conception is necessarily the only kind. When we examine history, we ask not only where we came from, but how the past’s present was ordered in such a way so as to deliver the present; from this, we also ask the same about our own present, asking towards what it is oriented.

We must be wary of committing the conservative mistake with respect to epistemology. So frequently, one notices that conservatives do not contend with the real phenomena which leftists point to in order to support their values. Instead, these conservatives frequently deny that the phenomena takes place at all. This puts the conservative at a disadvantage; if one considers the concept of privilege, it is actually hard to deny that there are certain privileges which accrue to certain groups which aren’t due to any demonstrated abilities of the individual in question. The better response is to acknowledge the privilege, and then suggest more rigorous reasons for why that privilege exists besides the standard leftist end-all be-all explanation of sheer irrational racism. If there are demonstrated differences between certain groups, then per Bayesian reasoning this implies you will tend to treat those groups differently under particular circumstances. Gaining knowledge about an individual is not a costless endeavor, and sometimes the costs/risks outweigh the benefits.

It is the contention of Scholastics that whatever is an evil is but a disordered form of the good. This suggests that Progress is not some instance of pure evil, but is merely a disordered form of the good; in this case, that good is one of historical understanding. The concept of Progress clearly informs the structure of understanding, providing a logical conceptual space for performing social-moral evaluations of social phenomena. In other words, ideology. We don’t want to say it is wrong simpliciter to have overarching concepts which inform the construction of our ideas. In this case, we must point out that the idea of Progress is not wrong to suggest a direction to history, it is merely wrong about fundamental details. Given the explicit rejection of teleology by modernism, it’s not hard to grasp why a plainly teleological concept should be so hard to understand in a clear, articulate way. However, given an explicit understanding of teleology, that should allow us to begin formulating a more ordered form of teleological history.

Most reject the concept of teleology explicitly primarily for a lack of understanding what it is and isn’t. If I might define teleology, I would define it as the tendency of beings to behave in order to come to an equilibrium. That is all it is, and nothing more; we mustn’t let certain linguistic and philosophical terms of art confuse us on this point, but must structure our language around this understanding. The sense in which we are able to understand how a material body ought to operate given certain conditions of mass, momentum, and proximity to other bodies is just what a teleological understanding is. When we observe the path of Saturn through the sky and notice a perturbation, that is a perturbation relative that world in which another body didn’t exist sufficiently nearby to gravitationally affect it. Science is simply impossible without the concept of teleology, since we always understand something to be a perturbation in the case a being exemplifies activity only explained by the postulate of an additional being or event not previously incorporated into our model. We expect a stone to fall to the ground like so; when it doesn’t, we do not suggest we were wrong to expect that, but had only failed to previously notice something in the world which would cause it to act otherwise.

Applying this understanding to society, we then come to understand history as the record of civilization’s activity. We apply certain models in economics and anthropology which postulate a tendency towards equilibrium, which is just to say they are explicitly teleological, presupposing a form of order by which deviations from the hypothetical order are explained by additional variables. Prices for a good remain above clearing equilibrium? It isn’t that the equilibrium model of pricing is wrong per se, but that there is something not covered by the model which explains this apparent lack of equilibrium; of course, in reality it is at an equilibrium, just at an equilibrium relative to conditions not previously perceived or understood.

As society is a being of many magnitudes of complexity beyond the activity of stones, it should be apparent that it will be that much more difficult to articulate in clear terms the trajectory of history. Indeed, given simple cognitive and epistemological limits of the human being, such an understanding of the trajectory of history may be impossible (in an individual…). That does not mean, however, we are wrong to say the history of society demonstrates a tendency towards some equilibrium, whether or not we understand what that equilibrium is. For shorthand, I have referred to this final equilibrium of society as the Omega Point, to cop Teilhard de Chardin and to acknowledge the role expanding consciousness and knowledge appears to play in the unfolding of history.

Teleological history requires a particular metaphysical understanding. Specifically, in order to postulate a telos of civilization, we must understand in what way society is a metaphysically real being. In the way we distinguish between inanimate and animate being on the basis of the kind of activity demonstrated, so we must be able to distinguish between social and non-social being through some kind of activity. This suggests further avenues of research for the neoreactionary paradigm.

Outprogress the Progressives

Agree and amplify is a dialectical form of pivot, which utilizes the opponent’s own momentum in order to demonstrate how a given insult or test, whether implicit or explicit, is absurd. It implicitly calls their character into question, leaving as the only avenue for escape to back off, tail between legs. This works because only a person who thinks, even subconsciously, that there is some merit to what is being said, will tend to show this through a reflexive response. If someone gets angry with you, it’s usually because you’ve said something they agree with but hate to admit of themselves. It’s a way to control and manipulate people; if they refuse to help, make them unable to hinder. The reason women cry foul against a man is almost always because he’s doing something they recognize is beyond their control. The principle is the same behind the effectiveness of terms like ‘racist’ and ‘bigot.’ They basically poison the well against someone, so that whatever their positive point, no matter its moral irrelevance, becomes indistinguishable from moral outrage. Feminism has not become the de facto dogma of the modern age because it was ever demonstrated that women are equivalent to men in all the ways it has been claimed, but primarily because the defenders of patriarchy were susceptible to being shamed into no longer imposing their views without the tacit agreement of others. It is the same dynamic with “conservatives” under progressive ideology; they are unwilling to impose without the agreement of progressives, essentially handing them the power to veto and prevent any reversion of society to sane standards of civility.

That is the power of neoreaction. Rather than being cowed by being called racist, it is practically a gift. He who would stoop to plain ad hominem, calling into character the moral standing of his opponent, demonstrates he has no intent of dialogue with good faith, and can be safely disregarded as a potential source of useful criticism. Indeed, the racistist can be profitably impugned for his weak mental character. If the racist is so evil, his arguments can be easily dispatched. The unwillingness of others to reasonably engage only suggests they don’t have those arguments at the ready. When that occurs, the best strategy is to press the advantage, provoking them into a fury where they will inevitably discredit themselves and damage their future ability to provide reliable criticism. That’s what happened with Mark Shea, and it’s what is happening with feminists through the workings of Poe’s law.

For those capable of equitable dialogue, there is no reason to not provide it. For those unwilling, or more likely incapable, parody and mocking are their rightful dessert. Someone who enters the arena with a sword must be prepared to die by it, so by all means give it to them. What is absurd and poorly reasoned will tend to reveal itself when put under scrutiny. If anything, the worst thing that could happen for the Cathedral is if neoreactionaries were to start assisting it in its goals. They want gay marriage? Insist upon it! Shame gays not for their homosexuality, but for their lack of relationship bona fides. They want more women in the workplace? By all means! If they will not take their own medicine, they are but hypocrites, and if we are right about that medicine’s bitterness, they will only look sillier when they choke it down before throwing up all over themselves. Don’t fight the Cathedral; bring Progress to the Progressives!

There’s no reason to assault the main gates if you can get in through the back door. Such an assault would only be to capture the Cathedral’s attention, while the true work is being done from within. Though it might seem odious, hold your nose and read their works. I found this to be one of the most illuminating books about the inadequacies of Progressive thought paradigms. Outfoucault the Foucaultians. Outmarx the Marxists. Outbutler the Butlerians. Outsalon Salon. The worst, or perhaps best, that can happen to the Progressive mire of contradictions is honing it to a fine point of clear and clever absurdity.

The Truth About Truth

Truth is a rather mundane thing, signifying correspondence between something and the world. What becomes tricky is all the ways in which correspondence may be signified and understood. We can’t deny that there is truth, for the obvious reason that denying there is truth would have to be its own truth, a plain contradiction. But this doesn’t establish as much about the flat utility of ‘truth’ as truth “objectivists” (i.e. those who want to say the truth isn’t purely conditional on the individual’s will, which is true) appear to assume; for one to go on and elaborate about the plurality of ways in which a thing can be varyingly true or false tends to invite suspicion that one doesn’t believe in truth per se. But we throw caution to the wind here, so allow us to go on.

First and foremost, the meaning of words are their use. This is akin to saying that the purpose of tools are their function; or, to put it more literally, words are tools. They are used in order to achieve a certain effect, such as leaving another with a certain impression or influencing the behavior of another. I say “Coffee” to the barista, which has the effect of causing that individual to get me coffee. We can haggle over free will and all that, but one must admit it highly unlikely the barista would have gotten me coffee had I not said that word. Indeed, when one decomposes the entirety of speech into the components of semantic sense, emotional affect, and so on, and ask why we (or at least our subconscious) chose to speak in some way rather than another, it is due to the behavioral effects which tend to be noted in response to certain speech patterns. Shouting doesn’t have the same effect as a whisper, and “coffee” doesn’t have the same effect as “latte.”

“Truth” is the same, in that it’s meaning is defined by use. Our discussions over what constitutes a thing’s truth is getting at how the use of that word can be proper or improper with respect to the conditions in which something is declared true. This can be really obvious when one wants to say “It is true that there is more than $100 in my bank account,” which can be determined by simply looking at one’s bank account; but if one were to suggest that a work of fiction is “true,” the complexities immediately come out in force. It doesn’t appear we can say fiction is always false. After all, many of Aesop’s fables have the characteristic of timeless truth, provided one understands that the story of the ant and grasshopper is less about ants and grasshoppers and more about the benefit of labor over pleasure. Understanding how a fable can be true or not is a more complicated endeavor than confirming statements about bank accounts, since you can’t just make a single observation about the world and then know. One needs to put together a picture, assisted by words themselves, in their head about a set of observations about the world in order to get at whether a fable’s moral is true or not.

It is the way in which words creep into the picture trying to be defined itself that makes truth harder to pin down. If we can’t get at our understanding without assisting that mental picture with words itself, then we must begin with those words themselves, making understanding the truth of a single proposition a potentially multidimensional affair. This is how it becomes difficult to answer a question “True” or “False,” as one sees in what ways they are true, false, and could be true, all while not passing judgment in the way the questioner tends to imply.

Truth is relative, insofar as it is a question of how it relates to things in the world.

Truth is subjective, insofar as it is a question of how it depends upon a subject.

Truth is objective, insofar as it is a question of how it depends upon an object.

The “truth is relative” argument is not open and shut, but can be admitted by a realist without losing anything he wants to say about truth. What only need be denied are the spurious implications, that somehow truth can be a matter purely of will just for its having depending upon relations; if it depends upon relations, that is because in this case the truth is about relations which hold in the world, meaning that its relativity is a positive, not normative, analysis. We use the word ‘truth’ in the case it is found useful to do so, i.e. impresses on another what we intended. We act differently in the case we understanding something to be true or false, which appears to link meaning to behavior such that, were a statement true or false without effecting our behavior in any possible way, it would simply seem to not mean anything. In other words, it seems we must cash out truth in terms of how it influences our behavior, for otherwise it should fail to have anything to do with the world (for what else would it imply?).

This doesn’t really imply any radical changes to the way we actually tend to use the word truth. Like any trained behavior, it tends to conform to those uses which prove most adaptive to the teleosemantic structure of our language. “But is that true?” will not tend to mean much different between I or someone with a less in-depth understanding.

The Teleo-Cosmological Argument

Forgive me what seems a tangent from the usual scope of this blog, but given the mire of metaphysics that is beginning to dominate my thought, it seemed apt to express a straightforward argument for God’s existence which shall play a role in future endeavors of civisology, memetics, and other neoreactionary arcana. It only becomes more complicated from here.

The sketch of my argument is as this:

1) Whatever is material is undergoing change

2) Whatever is undergoing change, undergoes change to some end

3) This end is necessitated by being in act

4) The chain of being cannot be essentially infinite

5) Therefore, there must exist a being of pure act (i.e. God)

Now allow me to elaborate.

To understand the activity of a thing is not only to understand how it reacts to forces exerted upon it, but to understand that state of affairs towards which it acts so as to come to equilibrium. We observe that a stone falls to a body, and we would never suppose that a stone falls without falling to some actual body; the idea of a stone falling without this having as its end to come to rest at a gravitational center (i.e. when it ceases to act, having come to equilibrium) is simply senseless. It may be in motion, but unless that motion were typified by the possibility for it to actually come to rest at a gravitational center, we would not call that motion falling. Likewise does this framework of understanding hold for other material phenomena. Gases expand to fill their container at an equilibrium of equal pressure throughout its space, heat dissipates to an equilibrium of maximum entropy, animals seek sustenance in order to survive and reproduce, so on and so forth. It is just the part of an understanding of a thing to understand that towards which it acts, and by what activity it tends towards that state of affairs in which it should have cause of no further action, i.e. is at rest.

This is, in other words, but an exposition of Aristotle’s final cause. The activity of a thing is always in order to achieve some particular state of affairs, rather than another.

Come back to the stone falling to the ground. What in the world (I say this literally, not rhetorically) makes it so that the stone falls to the ground (and as we understand in modern science, the ground is also falling up to the stone in some way as well, but that is minutiae to our argument)? One might be tempted to answer with “Gravity!” but this only pushes the question back a step. Gravity is a description of the tendency of material bodies to fall towards each other in a particular way. Shall it be suggested that “gravity” is some rarified “thing” out there in the world, which is some sort of existential being of its own? That does not seem correct, for now we have only added a third being to describe the activity observed between two beings, and it remains a question of how this third being “gravity” exerts itself on the other two beings (and is this “gravitational being” subject to gravity as well?). It makes no sense to suppose that “gravity,” i.e. the description of some particular means of inter-action between two bodies is itself another being, but is only that; a description of some particular means of inter-acting. This leaves us with only the two beings, in which case we must say that it is the material bodies themselves which exert themselves so as to come to a gravitational equilibrium. That is, the stone causes itself to fall in the case it does not exist in a state of affairs which might be considered equilibrium; but this is not to suggest that the stone causes itself to fall alone. Again, to fall is to fall to something, and so the stone’s activity is the result of that state of affairs towards which it acts which brings it to rest/equilibrium/maximum entropy. All action is in order to bring a potency to act; all change is in order to exhaust the sequence of changes necessary so that no more change is found wanting between the present and that state of affairs in which the being finds its equilibrium.

This introduces a problem, namely that, if we understand that all material beings in the world are in some way undergoing change, and that all change is in order to come to some actualized state of affairs beyond which no change is necessary (and thus, likewise, possible), it follows that there must be some being which is itself unchanging. This is more difficult to explain when considering a world of multiple material beings, but suppose there were a world of one single material being. As this being is material, by definition it is undergoing change; were it not, it should cease to be material, as it would have become a being of pure act. But then, if it is the only material being in the world, towards what is it changing? That is, if activity occurs in order to produce an equilibrium beyond which no more change is necessary or possible, then the activity of this singular material being must be directed to some being which is not in the world, that is to say, an immaterial being which does not undergo change. This immaterial being, which can also be said to be in pure act (for potency describes some possible state of affairs which brings greater equilibrium than the present), would be what we call God.

In our world of multiple material beings, inasmuch as all beings are in act towards some actual being (e.g. stones fall to actual bodies, animals act towards actual generation, etc), then the possibility of a material being to act towards another material being depends upon this chain of activity being ultimately directed towards this changeless being of pure act. This chain of activity cannot be essentially infinite, that is to say, without some termination in a being of pure act, for all action is necessarily towards a state of affairs of greater actuality, i.e. reducing potency, which is another way to say that all action is towards greater equilibrium. Complete changelessness is by definition the greatest possible equilibrium, for at equilibrium there is nothing to introduce a change in the system, no state of affairs beyond which to act towards that decreases potency and increases act. We may say this chain of activity is accidentally infinite, i.e. to say that our world is constituted of an infinite number of potential material beings, but it still holds that an accidentally infinite series of beings must still be in act towards absolute equilibrium, and that equilibrium possible by the existence of a being in actually greater act. Thus, there must exist a being of pure act in order to explain the activity of beings in this world; this is to say that God must exist.

The Neoreactionary Project

What is a meme? This is not to ask about its colloquial usage (which is itself, of course, a meme), but its technical usage as instances of information which inform the behavior and activity of its propagators. Within this framework Moldbug diagnoses morbid memeplexes, i.e. memes which prove maladaptive to its host. Memes are, ultimately, not living things, but depend essentially upon living things to be propagated, and change as they are found able to be changed by their propagators. In this way, evolutionary memetics takes place. Not through any competition occurring intrinsically between memes themselves, as competition occurs in nature, but by proxy of how those memes happen to be aligned with materially compelling interests. To put that another way, a meme which confers optimal advantage to its holder is not sufficient to propagate itself if its propagator faces material forces which far outstrip its own power. There is a balance between power and propagation; power is unequal and reserved to a few, while memes propagate via social contact no matter what the level. The means by which power relations are situated are those means available for propagation.

Memetic propagation will tend to confer most advantage by providing identity. Throughout history, the success of an individual has in almost all cases depended upon integration with a body greater than himself. The division of labor demands that technical knowledge cannot be easily shared, yet outside the realm of technical knowledge a mechanism which promotes integration despite this difference of technical knowledge proves adaptive for the groups and individuals that adapt them. Memetic propagation at this level is primarily concerned with signaling and acknowledging shared group membership, so that one’s technical knowledge in one respect, though it cannot be assessed at the technical level for itself, can be trusted by proxy of the technician’s ability to signal reliability and trust, that is, through signaling group membership. Memetic propagation confers fitness in the case it confers shared identity with groups. For Progressives, it is politically correct opinions; for hipsters, it’s an eclectic musical taste that evades association with the mainstream; for blacks, it’s Air Jordans. Each group develops a memetic equilibrium which allows one to signal group membership.

However, the advantage of group membership faces an opposing force, namely that of memetic centers. This is, in other words, how to decide who has more or less authority for determining which memetic groupings prove one is most “with it” in a group, and this will tend to be influenced mostly by those who do the most to maintain group cohesion and advantage relative other groups. This produces memetic evolution, and creates a space for competition within the group to best articulate that group’s memetic essence. This will be decided generally by the success associated with an individual; if one has a role of relative leadership within the group, then their memetic propagation has more sway than that put on by the lesser members. This is also why the first rule of social status is to not talk about social status. If one needs to explicitly draw attention to social status within a group, this is the clearest signal that one does not intuit the essence of the memetic propagation within the group. Either one recognizes the memetic center and follows (with the chance of succession when his own memetic propagation proves to confer an advantage), or they don’t and so must be considered an outsider of the group.

Note likewise that memes are not necessarily strings of information or sequences of words. In the most abstract sense, they are simply instances which signal. Words signal, but so does a car blinker. iPhones are memes, and so is the Ford F-150. Memetic propagation is ultimately a description of fashion, and that in turn a description of how we attempt to signal group membership.

But what of the intersection between memes and reality? Most memes are not about anything in particular; they are indicators of shared experience, shared fraternity, shared group membership. There is nothing particularly true or false about Ray Ban’s, and they make no declarative statement about how things in the world work. Yet some memes do portend to propose how things are, and sometimes even beyond that, how things should be. We witness endlessly conservatives and liberals going back and forth, not due to some particular acquaintance with the subject matter that confers authority on their prattling (“muh guns,” “muh body, muh choice”), which might be considered as semantically meaningful as kindergarteners going on about quantum mechanics and dark matter. What’s going on here? Merely the attempt to signal group membership, rather than any expression of expertise. Yet they can cop the supposed experts well enough that most never even see past the words to what’s really going on. In order to create a space safe for conceptual development, i.e. a specific form of memetic propagation, that won’t devolve into drawing lines of group membership, effort must be expended on the development of memetic propagation which are simply irreplicable by those who can only hope to gain group membership and a justification of their sociopolitical sentiment. In other words, a memetic filter, a shibboleth, something which allows those engaged in testing and verifying the fitness between propositions and what they say about the world to gather together lived experience in the construction of a memeplex which confers an advantage on the groups which abide by them not only for the benefits of group membership, but relative those groups which do not adopt that memeplex, a competitive edge which eventually sees the other groups outcompeted, subsumed, and extinguished. (There aren’t any more Lamarckians these days, are there?) Those who place group membership over forwarding the theory at hand will only hold the theorizing back, for the development of a theory cannot guarantee that it will be amenable to the worldviews held previously by those who first engaged with it. Suppose a group of individuals were engaged in constructing a sensible theory of society which produced reliable descriptions and predictions of social phenomena? Would those who were previously socialist become capitalist if the theory demonstrated the welfare increasing function of market dialectic? This is the problem with scientific paradigms; they are social. But they can’t occur without humans, no matter their faults and blind spots, so at best we can hope that those who hold to welfare-decreasing views go ahead and practice those views and are selected out without imposing undue negative consequences on those with the welfare-increasing views.

However, as a successful memeplex takes place and takes on the qualities of a thought-structuring paradigm, it loses its elitist edge. At one point in time, signaling belief in evolutionary theory conferred an advantage of biological authority; now, stressing that one believes in evolutionary theory unlike those dirty creationists only demonstrates that one has taken on the guise of scientific theory to bolster the supposed superiority of their group. The same with the standard social science model handed down to society from Harvard, which has become less a test of intellectual integrity but whether one will hold the line for the sake of the Progressive dogma of equality.

Devising memes which confer an advantage to a group in terms of developing accurate theories of the world is itself a memetic endeavor. How to construct, as it were, a truth-determining machine? How can we both appreciate what role memes serve us as high-IQ monkeys, and also make use of the regularities of memetic propagation which leads to the production of a research programme that will allow a specific group of high-IQ monkeys to propagate memes amongst the rest of the population (specifically by way of those who hold the most power) that confers an overall civilizational fitness? This may be considered the project of neoreaction in a nutshell.

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